Editor’s Note: The following was written in 1967 when the author was a patient in the 247th General Hospital at Camp Drake, Japan. He was in charge of the News Department for the Armed Forces Radio Far East Network, Tokyo.
It is one of the entries in his book, Vietnam Through Rose Colored Glasses, published in 2013 and winner of an IPPY Bronze Medal in the Current Events Category for 2013. You can contact Mr. Rose by email: email@example.com
By: Richard S. “Dick” Rose Master Chief Journalist, US Navy (Ret.)
Jr. Vice Commander, Sgt. Manny Peven Post 65, Jewish War Veterans of America
When I was still at the Far East Network Newsroom, I expressed my disappointment with the feature news coming out of Vietnam in the “Stars & Stripes.” One of my co-workers, a Marine sergeant, asked me if I could do better.
I didn’t know. However, in June I was in the Army’s 249th General Hospital, where wounded were sent before being sent back to the States. I talked to many of the troops, from some paratroopers with stomach wounds to helicopter pilots, when I was moved to the Junior Officers’ ward.
This gave me the chance to write the following. The Marine sergeant agreed I could do and did better than what was in “Stars &Stripes.”
Interview With A Sergeant
So you want an interview? You want to know what War is like; What I feel and what I think; How I lead my men.
Have you ever been in a war? I didn’t think so! If you had, you wouldn’t ask; You couldn’t ask.
But you did ask, so I’ll try to explain. Maybe I can understand, myself. And understand myself.
To begin with, I’d say it’s Duty—Or, a better word, Order. A matter of my being ordered into combat
As a soldier, To restore order in the chaos—In order to have Peace.
And you, an information specialist, Ordered to interview me in this hospital.
You sit here, a thousand miles from combat And try to imagine our feelings. And you can. But you can never feel our Imaginings!
You want to interview me? Okay, but we’ll talk about you. You sit here and feel guilty Because I’ve been wounded, And you haven’t fired a weapon Since basic training.
So you’re extra nice to a Grouchy guy like me, And you ignore my rudeness.
But you shouldn’t regret not going Any more than I regret going. You’ve got your orders And I have mine,
And we’ll have some in the future. And we’ll both do them without regrets, Because the good soldier is never sorry, And the sorry soldier is never good.
What’s War like? Ask the kid there is the next bed. He’ll tell you that it’s fear.
At first, you’re afraid of being afraid; And then you taste the real fear, itself, As you look for an enemy who’s looking for you And you both secretly hope you’ll never meet. And then, one day, You’re no longer afraid, And that scares you even more, Because then you’re afraid of yourself.
Or ask one of the other guys. Any one – or all. They’ll tell you War is Nature turned around. In the middle of the day, It’s dark with fear. In the middle of the night, it’s Bright with hope. Sometimes.
Or you can suddenly be cold In the jungle heat—Cold and dark and all alone.
Or you can be hot In the chill of the night.
It doesn’t make sense. But War never does.
Ask any one of the men here What War is like, And they’ll all give you the same answers - Which will all be different. Ask ‘em again, and They’ll all give you different answers, Which will all be the same. Ask me.
What’s War like? Don’t ask. I hope you never find out.
249th General Hospital, Camp Drake, Japan, 1967